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Selected Methods

Participatory Research with Children

In order to get a child to open up to others they have to feel safe and comfortable. As we know there are some children who keep to themselves. There are those who are not willing to fully open up to people especially “grownups.” Children feel as though adults do not understand them. Fine and Sandstorm suggested that there needs to be observational and in-depth research with children to learn more about their culture. When understanding children we have to realize that children have their own opinions and understand things differently. Our view of the world is not necessarily the same as theirs. Doing qualitative research on children is very important. There has to be a physical closeness but at the same time have social distance. Children are different when it comes to studying them. We have to take into consideration their age, circumstance, consequences, what they know and what they do. Also factors to include when researching children are their gender, class and nationality. When it comes to Participant Observation one must study children based on three ages and levels. They are preschoolers’ age 4-6 years old, Preadolescents age 10-12 years old, and middle adolescents age 14-16 years old. In the study they focused on non-deviant middle class white males.

The ultimate goal of research with children is to get to know them and better to see the world through their eyes. This research helps us further understand that children are knowledgeable about their world, and it is special and adults can benefit by seeing the world through their hearts and minds. There are two dimensions that adults assume when studying children 1) the extent of positive contact between adult and child and 2) the extent to which the adult had direct authority over the child. Next is the Supervisor role, which is an authoritarian adult that has no affective relations with children. When the child is around that type of authority figure they act two different ways around them and when they are being observed. Also, there is the Leader, which is different from the supervisor role. They have a more positive approach with the child. The child has more of a leeway but still not try to embarrass their leader. The Observer role is the inverse of the leader role. It involves watching children in public spaces. The final role is the Friend role, which according to the authors is the major role of participant observation. The friend role involves a more interactive approach with out having an explicit authority role. It allows the child to be more trusting of the adult researcher. The key to their role is explicitly expressing positive affect with lack of authority and a lack of sanctioning of the behavior. It is important to get the child to trust you and observe them in a space they are more comfortable and being their true self.

Although one might think that children often do not think about political structure and class, this topic is embedded in their everyday lives in which exposes them to know more than one might think. In order to obtain a better understand of how children view the structure of where they, as children, stand in society, Hart and Rajbhandary have conducted research in Nepal supported by the Save the Children by grouping children together and assigning them to create a system based on their reflections of society. This group assignment consists of the children themselves as well as the adults in charge such as teachers and is categorized by gender, age, and caste system. The goal of this experiment was to see how children understand the system as well as their placement in it in addition to explaining to children the issues of power in which exists amongst the clubs. This experiment was conducted by placing children into various groups, giving them different roles in society such as advisers and representatives and places the participants on a scale in which indicates the division of power and the influences on one another.

Throughout the overall experiment, it was concluded that these methods are beneficial not only for evaluation cause, but also in different occasions in which to show the importance and gain a better understanding of democracy. By assigning children to work together on this specific topic, they are able to express their views and provide insight on how they view society. Although this experiment allowed children to work together by sharing their own views amongst one another, they were lacking communication in regards to how they were working together as well as responding to one another in the meetings that were facilitated. By teaching the children the importance of participation in society, we are giving them a voice and place in which they will take into their own hands.

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